Underscoring the collective value and critical role of state colleges and universities, Montclair State President Susan A. Cole joined fellow state college and university presidents to launch a major statewide campaign, “Nine Strong for a Stronger New Jersey” at a press conference at Thomas Edison State College on September 16. As part of this effort, the college and university presidents signed a pledge to the State of New Jersey expanding their commitment to educating the next generation of the state’s students.
The nine institutions, all members of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU), are Montclair State University, The College of New Jersey, Kean University, New Jersey City University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Richard Stockton College, Rowan University, Thomas Edison State College, and William Paterson University. These nine institutions enroll nearly one-half of all students who attend a four-year college or university in New Jersey.
Despite the importance of these institutions to higher education in New Jersey, state support has steadily declined over the years forcing the institutions to look elsewhere for the funds to continue operations. “When my father graduated from Montclair State in 1974, state appropriations covered more than 87 percent of the institution's operating budget,” said Montclair State Student Government Association President Ron Chicken. “Now, this year, when I’m a senior at Montclair State, state appropriation covers only 27 percent of the University’s operating budget.”
Chicken, who accompanied Dr. Cole and addressed the media representing the students of the nine institutions, also remarked that the state—through its lack of funding—had essentially left the students to build their own institutions. “At Montclair State University and at our sister state colleges and universities, the students have essentially built all these facilities," he stated. “We have paid higher tuition and fees because we wanted—and this state needs us to have—the faculty and facilities and services that will assure us a high quality education.”
Dr. Cole stressed the urgency of the situation with regard to the numbers of students who leave the state to attend college elsewhere. “If you look at all of the net out-migration in the whole country—and by net out-migration we’re talking about the difference between students who come into a state and students who leave the state—New Jersey, this one state, accounts for 43 percent of the national net out-migration,” she said. “We are so beyond the norm in this matter and what that constitutes is 26,000 people a year, year after year after year, leaving this state. That’s our future workforce, that’s our future tax-paying population, that’s New Jersey’s future economic health.”
NJASCU also used the occasion to announce the launch of the New Jersey College Promise Action Network. The network will link people who care about the nine state colleges and universities with those in a position to make these institutions a higher priority—including the New Jersey Governor and Legislature. Participation in the network is purely voluntary and is open to students, their family members, alumni, staff, trustees, educators, and other friends of the institutions. To participate, visit www.njcollegepromise.com.
Read an article on the event in The Star-Ledger.
Read the press release from NJASCU.